Newsletter - 6 March 2012
The LostCousins newsletter is usually published fortnightly. To access the previous newsletter (dated 26 February 2012) please click here.
Whenever possible links are included to the websites or articles mentioned in the newsletter (they are highlighted in blue or purple and underlined, so you can't miss them).For you convenience, when you click on a link a new browser window or tab will open (so that you donít lose your place in the newsletter) - if nothing seems to happen then you need to enable pop-ups in your browser.
To go to the main LostCousins website click the logo at the top of this newsletter. If you're not already a member, do join - it's free, and you'll get an email to alert you whenever there's a new edition of this newsletter available!
Finding a 'lost cousin' has often been compared to winning the lottery, so I thought it would be interesting to begin this newsletter by focusing on the similarities and the differences.
Let's begin with the similarities. First and foremost you can only win if you take part, whether this means buying a ticket or completing your My Ancestors page. Secondly, the more tickets you buy (or the more relatives you enter), the greater your chances of winning. Finally, when you do win, it's a wonderful feeling!
Now let's turn to the differences. The most obvious one is that to play the lottery you have to buy tickets, and you only find out after you have paid out whether they are winning tickets or losing tickets; by contrast, when you search for 'lost cousins' you don't have to pay a penny, no matter how many relatives you enter on your My Ancestors page. The only time you might have to pay is after you've won, that is to say, after you've found a 'lost cousin'. What a great system!
Tip: even when you do find a 'lost cousin' you don't have to buy a subscription, because there are several times each year when all members have subscriber privileges (these are publicised in my newsletter). Mind you, I'm very grateful to those members who do buy subscriptions, because without their invaluable support LostCousins wouldn't exist, certainly not in its present form.
There's another big difference. After the lottery has been drawn you may as well tear your losing tickets up - but when it comes to searching for 'lost cousins' there's no such thing as a losing ticket, weíll continue searching for matches so long as you remain a member, even if you never buy a subscription. Not bad for a free service!
And finally, the chance of finding 'lost cousins' is far greater than your chance of winning on the lottery. For example, the chance of winning even the smallest prize on the UK National Lottery is about 1 in 55, whilst the chance of hitting the jackpot is 1 in 14 million!
By contrast, the chances of finding a 'lost cousin' when you enter a household from the England & Wales 1881 census is currently about 1 in 20. Those are pretty good odds, and - since most LostCousins members have identified more than 20 households on the 1881 Census - by rights most of you should have found at least one 'lost cousin' by now.
And yet, the majority of members haven't found a single 'lost cousin'. A look at the statistics reveals why: fully half of you have entered either ONE solitary relative, or NONE at all.
By contrast, the most prolific 20% of members have entered 90% of all the relatives (it works out at an average of 100 each, although some have entered thousands). That means they're getting almost all the matches - and yet the number of cousins they're finding is only about one-fifth of what it could be, because 80% of their cousins amongst our membership have made so few entries (or none at all).
Are you one of the 20%, or one of the 80%?
Itís easier than you might think to make the transformation. To enter 100 relatives (or 20 households) on your My Ancestors page will take about 30-40 minutes, not much longer than it will take to read this newsletter and follow up the links.
We're all busy people nowadays - there are so many other things competing for our attention - but is it really fair that our own cousins should miss out? Maybe all it will take for you to transform your cousin's life is for you to do one less Sudoku, watch one less soap, or spend a little less time on Facebook. Check out this page for a simple step-by-step guide to success.
Tip: LostCousins matches are worth their weight in gold: not only are they virtually 100% accurate, but because most LostCousins members are highly-experienced researchers (the average LostCousins member has been researching their tree longer than I have!) you're likely to discover so much more than you would by finding cousins at other sites.
I wrote in my last newsletter that LostCousins members Tony Martin and Chris Pavett had won 1st and 2nd prize in the Federation of Family History Societies competition (to write a 1000 word essay about the most interesting person in their tree).
No sooner had the newsletter gone to press than I got an email from member Heather Feather, who revealed that she had been the joint winner of the 3rd prize! It certainly proves that LostCousins members are, like Yogi, "smarter than the average bear" (which is probably why finding 'lost cousins' can be so rewarding).
I featured a slightly longer version of Tony's winning entry in this newsletter before the competition was even announced (you can find it here), and I'm delighted to announce that both Chris and Heather have agreed to their entries being published in the newsletter. You'll find Chris's story in this issue, and I'm hoping there will be room to include Heather's in the next issue.
All three are excellent examples, not just of how to write up your research, but also how to carry it out in the first place - they are great tales, but underpinned by painstaking research. That's why I am particularly proud that they are all LostCousins members.
It's taken a while (the original announcement was in November 2010) but on St David's Day (1st March) findmypast announced that nearly 4 million parish records from 5 historic Welsh counties are online - see the news release for full details. Records for the other 8 counties are described as "coming soon".
I shall no doubt have many hours of fun trying to figure out which of the Jones and Williams entries relate to my wife's ancestors!
For me, the England & Wales censuses from 1841-1911 are the cornerstone of my research, whether I'm researching backwards from 1841 or forwards from 1911.
Findmypast was the first subscription site to offer the complete 1911 Census (even now Ancestry only has 75% coverage - and their images are still missing the information in the final column). Findmypast is also the only site where you can search all of the censuses by address, as well as by name Ė what better way to track down relatives whose names have been badly mistranscribed?
Findmypast also has the most complete and accurately-transcribed set of Birth, Marriage, and Death indexes - and, just as importantly, theyíve made them really easy to search.
I'm therefore delighted that findmypast have agreed to provide an exclusive discount code for use by LostCousins members, friends and relatives. From now until midnight (London time) on 19th March you can save 10% on any new findmypast subscription - and remember that all of the subscriptions, even the cheapest, include the FULL 1911 England & Wales Census.
This 10% saving isnít just a one-off, because if you join findmypast today youíll also save 10% when your subscription comes round for renewal thanks to findmypastís Loyalty Discount scheme.
And, as if that wasnít already enough, you can add to your savings by claiming a free LostCousins subscription (worth up to £12.50) to run alongside your findmypast subscription - if you're already a LostCousins subscriber the expiry date will be extended by 6 or 12 months. Here's what you need to do:
(1) Click here to go the findmypast website (it will open in a new tab or new browser window), then either register or log-in (if you have registered previously).
(2) Next click on Subscribe, enter the exclusive offer code LOSTCOUS1203 in the Promotional Code box, and click Apply to display the discounted offer prices:
(3) Choose the subscription you prefer, bearing in mind that the 12 month subscriptions offer the best value. I'd also recommend the Full subscription unless you're an absolute beginner since the wealth of additional datasets are well worth the small additional cost - at the discounted price of £98.95 the cost for an annual Full subscription is just 27p a day (thatís half what you might be paying for a 2nd Class stamp in a monthís time!).
(4) When you receive your email receipt from findmypast forward a copy to me at the usual address (the one I used to tell you about this newsletter) so that I can verify your entitlement. Your free LostCousins subscription can include your spouse or partner as well - just make sure that the two accounts are linked together before you write to me (the Subscribe page at the LostCousins site explains how to do this).
Note: these offers apply only when you take out a new findmypast subscription; they do not apply to renewals (since renewals at findmypast qualify for 10% Loyalty Discount), nor can they be backdated or combined with any other offers. Your free LostCousins subscription (worth up to £12.50) is paid for by the commission we receive from findmypast, so it is essential that you click the link or the screen shot above immediately before you log-in at findmypast to take out your subscription.
How can you possibly find births and marriages in the death indexes? Are we talking about entries that have been misfiled? Read on, and you may be surprised by what you learn....
From 1st April 1969 onwards the England & Wales death indexes include the precise date of birth of the individual, information that doesn't appear in the birth indexes for any period. I don't know anyone who can afford to buy birth certificates for all of their relatives from collateral lines, so to discover the exact date of birth from the death indexes is a real bonus.
Of course, unless the name is a very rare one you have to bear in mind the possibility that the death index entry you've found is the wrong one, but there are some simple checks you can carry out. First make sure that the date of birth tallies with the birth index entry - allowing for the fact that births can be registered up to 42 days later - then check whether the place of death makes sense given the other information you have for this branch of your tree.
The process I've just described is simplest for male relatives, because they usually don't change their name when they marry. But what about female relatives - how can the death indexes help you find out more about them?
The first thing I do is assume that they didn't marry, and check whether I can find a death entry in their maiden surname. If I do, and the information fits with whatever else I know, then it seems probable that they didn't marry. †But most of the time they did marry, and this is when it gets more interesting....
Much of the time it isn't possible to be certain that you've found the correct marriage, and one of the reasons for this is that even though by the late 19th century most people had at least two forenames, the indexes for many periods only show the first forename in full, providing only initials in place of middle names. (This is one of the reasons I recommend searching the GRO BMD indexes at findmypast - the site copes with the different formats far more effectively than Ancestry.)
Sometimes you'll be able to narrow down the list of possible marriages geographically, though this can be dangerous in view of the extent to which people moved around in the 20th century - whether looking for work, going to university, or joining the forces. On the other hand, since it's the bride whose name we know, it's worth remembering that marriages are often paid for by the bride's parents, so you'll usually find that the marriage took place at a location that's fairly close to "home".
Whether you've narrowed down the list of possibles to just one entry or a handful, it's time to go back to the death indexes. Assuming that your female relative didn't remarry or divorce her death is likely to be registered in her husband's surname - so the next step is to look for possible deaths and compare the date of birth (for deaths up to March 1969 you'll need to calculate this from the age at death) with your relative's birth date. You won't always find a death that fits in with one of the marriages - divorce, remarriage, emigration, and longevity all conspire against researchers - but much of the time you will.
If you happen to know your relative's precise date of birth and they died after March 1969 there's a another way to pin down the entry - which is to specify the exact date of birth and leave the surname box blank. However, you can only carry out this particular search at Ancestry, and even there you can only do it when you use the 'Old search' (the 'New search' will only allow you to search by month, not by day).
Tip: to switch between the Old and New searches at Ancestry choose Search All Records and click the link in the top right corner. Please note that I'm NOT recommending that you use the All Records search - indeed you should hardly ever use an All Records search at ANY site.
Unless the forenames are very unusual you'll still have a list of possible deaths - so the final step is to compare that list against the list of possible marriages. If the same surname appears in both lists then you've hit the jackpot!
The Social Security Deaths Index in the US is one of the few nationwide resources, so it is much used by genealogists (the fact that it's available free at the FamilySearch site is a bonus). There are over 90 million deaths recorded, covering the period 1962-2011, so there's a good chance of finding relatives who emigrated to the US in the 20th century, and a somewhat smaller chance of finding anyone who emigrated in the late 19th century.
Of course, female relatives may have married (and therefore changed their name) after arrival in the US, and other migrants may have changed the spelling of their names - so wouldn't it be useful if you could search by birthdate? Neither the new nor the old FamilySearch site offers this facility, and whilst you can search on birthdates at Ancestry, UK members would need a Worldwide subscription to see the full results.
I was therefore delighted to receive an email from Dublin in which LostCousins member Colm told me about a free site that does allow you to search the SSDI using birthdates. The results are sorted by forename rather than surname, which makes it easier to find the entry for someone whose surname you don't know.
For some reason Ancestry don't always show their latest record sets in the 'Featured record sets' box on their home page - so I didn't at first notice that they had added the London Metropolitan Archives collection of school admissions and discharge registers. There are over 1.7m entries from 843 schools covering the period from 1840-1911.
I never met my paternal grandmother - she died before my parents married, though I'd like to think she knew it was on the cards. So to find the register page showing that she and her sister Florence were admitted to Lucas Street School in Deptford on 27th February 1893 was really special. According to the recently revealed final column in the 1911 Census Florence was deaf from birth, so goodness knows how she got on at school - I'd like to think that my grandmother was able to help her out.
Tip: most public libraries in England and many in other countries have a subscription to Ancestry; if you can't afford two subscriptions then the best option for most people with British ancestry is to subscribe to findmypast, the easiest site to use, and "top-up" with the occasional visit to the library to access datasets that are unique to Ancestry.†
I started researching my family tree when I realised that my older relatives weren't going to be around for ever - I not only wanted to find out what they remembered, but more importantly to share my discoveries with them, because it wasn't just my family tree, but theirs too!
Everyone has a different trigger, and this essay by LostCousins member Chris Pavett won 2nd prize in the Federation of Family History Societies competition recently - I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I did.
I may never have met him but my great great grandfather, Joseph Pool, holds a special place in my heart.† He's the reason for my interest in genealogy.
In the 1970s my family was contacted by a researcher seeking information about Joseph, and he dropped the bombshell that Joseph had married a murderess by the name of Elizabeth Staunton.
My teenage imagination made Joseph a prison reformer, falling in love with Elizabeth after their eyes met across her squalid gaol cell!† As the years passed I thought about Joseph occasionally, but was in my 40s before I was motivated enough to discover the truth.†
He was born in Bermondsey in 1818, the eleventh of twelve children. The first occupation found for him, in the late 1830s, is that of slopseller.† I was relieved to discover that this meant he was providing clothes (like aprons and overalls) for working men, and not that he was trading in food scraps.† At about the same time he also began working as an assistant to a pawnbroker in Islington. I wonder how many unredeemed items of clothing were recycled into slops!
It was straightforward enough to trace Joseph's life, from his first marriage to Charlotte Hill in Islington, his second to Annie Critchley in Clapham, and the arrival of eleven children. Over the course of these two marriages Joseph's occupation gradually improved.† He became a pawnbroker, then an auctioneer, and finally an art dealer.†† By the time of his third marriage to Elizabeth Staunton, in 1889, he would be calling himself a fine art dealer and gentleman.
His career progression tied in with my family's belief that when he died, in 1903, he had been running an art gallery in Pall Mall Place in Westminster.† So, no surprises we thought.
However, a chance discovery at Westminster Archives revealed another side to Joseph's connection to Pall Mall Place.† We learned that he had started acquiring properties there from 1860.† He would lease a building from its owners, raise a mortgage on it, and then refurbish and rent the ground floor rooms as galleries or showrooms and the upper floors as lodging for respectable gentlemen.
He wasn't instantly successful.† In his first year as a property developer Joseph became bankrupt, but appears to have carried on undaunted. His bankruptcy case wasn't his only brush with the law.† He became involved in a mortgage scam, although as the innocent party.† He was sued when he confiscated furniture in lieu of† rent.† I suspect he knew more than was good for him about the collection of pornographic "art" for which one of his business lodgers was prosecuted.† And there is a report of Joseph taking another art dealer to court for not paying a commission fee for being introduced to a millionaire.†
It was his role of art dealer that led to Joseph's involvement with a famous murder.† In 1869 he began selling paintings for aspiring artist Patrick Staunton, and must surely have met Patrick's wife, Elizabeth, around this time.†
The Staunton brothers, Louis and Patrick, along with Elizabeth and her sister Alice, were to be the four defendants in the case which came to be known as the Penge Murder.† In 1877 all four were charged with killing Louis's wife, Harriett.† Contemporary newspaper reports, and subsequent books written about the crime, suggest that it wasn't wilful murder, but was instead careless indifference to Harriett's welfare.† She had died in a lodging house in Penge, weakened from malnutrition and infested with lice.
All four defendants were found guilty and initially sentenced to death.† However, public opinion seems to have forced a judicial review. Within weeks the death sentences were commuted to prison terms.† Alice was released immediately.† Of the brothers, Patrick died in prison, while Louis served his full 20 year term.† Elizabeth served six years and was released in 1883, and Joseph Pool was waiting in the wings to help her.
Almost immediately after her release Elizabeth became landlady of Joseph's Pall Mall lodging house, although she concealed her identity by calling herself Elizabeth Llewellyn - her husband Patrick's middle name.†
It is unclear when Joseph's relationship with Elizabeth crossed the line from friendship into romance.† Joseph's second wife, Annie, disappears mysteriously from the records after 1876. Whatever Annie's fate, in 1889 Joseph married for the third and final time, wedding Elizabeth Staunton.† He was 71 and she was 45.
The couple ran the gentlemen's lodging house together. It is clear that Joseph wanted a respectable establishment although he certainly had his work cut out for him.† For over a century this area of Westminster, popular with gentlemen's clubs, had also been notorious for its brothels and working girls.† So Joseph's lodgers had to sign a rental agreement promising to keep women out of their apartments!† He must have been reasonably successful because a mortgage report actually credits him with raising the tone of the neighbourhood.
After Joseph's death in 1903 Elizabeth would continue to run the lodging house, but things got off to a rocky start for her.† Members of Joseph's family had clearly been nursing their resentment for 25 years. Not only had he married a woman 30 years his junior, but a notorious murderess to boot.† On learning that Elizabeth was to be his sole beneficiary they were stirred into action.† They drove a horse and cart to Pall Mall Place and stripped it of anything of value, even to the extent of lowering a piano out of a first floor window onto the cart.
Joseph seems quite a character. He worked hard to improve his station in life and made himself outwardly respectable.† Perhaps there was something a little disreputable about him, just under the surface, but that may just be my romantic imagination again.
I don't think I've come to the end of what I can learn about him Ė there's still the mystery of his vanishing second wife. So I'm looking forward to unearthing even more surprises in the years to come.
© Copyright 2011 Chris Pavett
This article was written by LostCousins member Catherine Stewart, whose advice on interviewing older relatives (see the previous newsletter) proved very popular- I have received requests from family history societies around the world for permission to republish it.
I've been trying to knock down 'brick walls' using DNA since 2004 - the first challenge was my great-great-grandfather.
William Johnson's illegitimate birth in 1873 was a difficult knot to untangle using conventional genealogical sources. His mother came from an affluent Congregationalist family which closed off two avenues of research: firstly she didn't need poor relief (which would have required disclosing the father's name), and secondly the records of the local chapel havenít survived, so there is no record of his baptism (which might have provided a clue). Nothing was known of his genetic father save that he travelled around bringing textile supplies to the cottage industries - these days we'd call him a "regional sales rep".
I asked my great-uncle for a cheek swab. The Y chromosome is passed from father to son, so you need to find a willing male for whom the ancestor is in their direct paternal line (which in this case meant a male relative with the surname Johnson). Having acquired the sample - a very simple process - I submitted it to Family Tree DNA. I chose a 12 marker test (the cheapest at the time) and got quite a few matches, but the men had different surnames, so it was inconclusive.
I upgraded the number of DNA markers tested to 25, then to 37 and finally to 67 last year (these upgrades didn't require the submission of any new samples, which was a definite plus point). Eventually the only two matches remaining were with two related men both surnamed Greer, and as the 1871 census for Derbyshire and the three surrounding counties showed only 20 males surnamed Greer it seemed that at last there was a chance of identifying my ancestor!
A match based on 67 markers is 'statistically significant': this means that the chance of the match arising by chance is less than 5%. I can therefore be fairly confident that William's biological father was a man surnamed Greer, and although that isnít a complete solution, thereís no way I could have even got this far before the advent of cheap DNA tests.
At this point youíre probably wondering why I chose Family Tree DNA, an American company, rather than a British firm. Family Tree DNA has been around for longer and has the largest database of DNA results provided by family historians - which means that not only am I likely to make more matches, they are likely to be more useful.
In the same way that LostCousins continues looking for matches once youíve completed your My Ancestors page, Family Tree DNA continues searching for matches once youíve allowed your test results to be included in their database, and you are automatically emailed new matches as they are found. Furthermore, once youíve provided a sample, you can upgrade to the next level at any time - you donít have to provide a new sample (which is handy if the person who provided the sample has passed away).
As I mentioned earlier, because the Y chromosome is passed from father to son it tends to be correlated with surnames (I say Ďtendsí because you only need one illegitimate birth registered in the motherís name to mess things up!). Nevertheless when you know that one of your male ancestors was illegitimate, or was adopted, it provides a good chance of finding out the surname of the father. It can also help where there has been a change of name - for whatever reason.
If, like me, youíre not a man youíll need to find a male relative to provide a DNA sample, and that person needs to be a descended in the direct male line (this normally means that heíll have the same surname as the male ancestor whose paternity is unknown). But quite apart from the difficulty of finding a suitable donor, thereís no guarantee that there will be one - for example, the maternal grandfather of my cousin Hunter was illegitimate, but he didnít have any sons, only daughters.
In 2010, Family Tree DNA launched Family Finder, which is an autosomal marker test, and very different in concept from earlier tests. Human beings have 23 pairs of chromosomes: of these 22 pairs are autosomal chromosomes which are passed on by parents of both sexes to all their children. Whereas the first DNA tests (Y-DNA and mtDNA) only allow conclusions to drawn about ancestors in the direct paternal and maternal lines, these new tests can provide information about all of our ancestry.
The results from the Family Finder test are matched against all samples held and a calculation is made as to the probable degree of relationship to matching samples - for example, "second cousin, once removed". The two individual researchers can then make contact via Family Tree DNA and see if they can find a common link - in other words, the DNA test doesnít replace conventional research, it merely provides new and more productive avenues.
If youíre thinking of using the Family Finder test itís important to realise that more than one DNA sample is needed. DNA samples are simple and painless to take - itís just a cheek swab - but if you are thinking of asking an elderly relative to help out, you should explain that more than one sample may be required.
What are the downsides of using DNA tests? As with any family history research thereís always a chance that youíll find out something that you would rather not have known.
Before embarking on DNA research, I suggest you ask yourself 3 questions:
Am I mentally and emotionally prepared to deal with what
the results show about my ancestry and/or my medical status? Can I accept that
my ancestral race/religion and even close family may not be as I thought?
Can I live with, and either keep secret
or compassionately disclose, results I receive about a relative's sample,
and base that decision on what is actually best
for them, not my needs/desires or what I
think "is best" for them? You need to apply the same
scruples and empathy to a "nodding acquaintance" relative who
provides a sample as to a beloved sibling or grandparent whose emotional and
mental well-being you would do anything to protect.
3. Can I afford the money over the long haul, and is it worth it for what I'm looking for? Once you embark on the DNA route youíre unlikely to stop after just one test, so you could easily find yourself spending as much on DNA tests each year as you do on subscriptions to sites like findmypast and Ancestry. The more relatives you get tested, the more accurate and more meaningful your results will be, but also more expensive. Of course, if some of those relatives are also actively researching then theyíll more than likely be willing to contribute to the costs.
I trust Iíve given you some idea of why DNA testing has got me hooked - and I hope that if you do follow in my footsteps youíll find it as rewarding as I have.
© 2012 Catherine D. Stewart
This article was written by LostCousins member Alison Melville
My late father was the source of a great many varied snippets of information and something that he told me many years ago was that there were two Karl Marxes living in London at the same time, and that the 'other' Marx had become a British citizen.† Recently, following a discussion about not assuming that 'same name, same place' meant 'same person' (a hidden trap for family historians) I thought I'd check this out in the 1881 census at findmypast.
It turned out that my father was right. There was Karl Marx (Author Political Economy) living at 41, Maitland Park Road, St Pancras and under 'Where born' it says '(Foreign) Germany'. The census references are piece 211 folio 59 page 48 if you want to look it up using the technique that Peter described in the last newsletter.
Meanwhile, in another part of London there was Carl Marx (Jeweller & Diamond Merchant Employing 2 Men) living at 119, Fernlea Road, Streatham/. Under 'Where born' it says '(Naturalised British Subject) Germany' (piece 665/73/28).
After spending a little more time on the web I discovered various references to Karl Marx applying for British citizenship (and at least one saying that he was granted it).† However, all the images of supporting documents spelt his name Carl, and this included not only the police report describing him as a 'notorious German agitator', but also the signature on his application.† The thought occurred to me that perhaps Carl the jeweller had applied and been turned down first time because the authorities at the time had him confused with the other man!† Perhaps Karl never applied for naturalisation and it was all a case of mistaken identity, and a myth that has self-perpetuated?
I emailed the National Archives to ask if the papers in their file on the naturalisation of Karl Marx did all refer to the political author, or if there could be some confusion with his near-namesake.† Full marks to them (sorry!); I received a very thorough and courteous reply.
It seems that an application was indeed made in 1874 by THE Karl Marx; the address and personal details all refer to the man living at Maitland Park Road.† Carl Marx the jeweller applied successfully in 1877 and the police report in his file notes that "he is a highly respectable man".
So, slightly disappointingly, no case of mistaken identity, either by the police at the time or by the National Archives since.† The true situation although less dramatic, is possibly more mystifying.† There were two German-born Marxes, with very similar names, in London at the same time, and both men applied for citizenship within a few years of each other.† But why did Karl Marx and the four referees writing in his support consistently spell his first name as Carl.† Did it sound 'more English'?† Did he hope to be confused with the inoffensive jeweller?†
© 2012 Alison Melville
Alison's article is a reminder of the need to check the facts, even when there are several websites that give the same answer - because all of those sites may have taken their information from the same source. In this case there was no error - but that won't always be the case.
For example, Mari sent me a photograph of a memorial in a South Australian cemetery which refers to an †Alan McRae who was lost in the Titanic disaster. And yet, according to Encyclopedia Titanica, nobody of that name was on the ship, either as passenger or crew - and whilst there was an Arthur Gordon McCrae on board he seems to be unrelated.
As Encyclopedia Titanica notes, "Numerous stories are told of people who were booked on the Titanic but, for one reason or other, failed to travel on her. Some are true, the vast majority are probably untrue. Quite a few of these claims probably relate to passengers who had trips cancelled on other ships because of the coal strike in 1912, but because the Titanic was not full when she sailed most of these claims can be discounted. "
One story that's undoubtedly true is that of Robert Hichens, who was Quartermaster on the Titanic, and was at the wheel when it struck the iceberg. LostCousins member Martyn told me that Hichens (who survived the disaster) was his father's cousin - and that there's a book about his role called The Man Who Sank the Titanic.
When LostCousins member Alexandra was young her father told her that her grandfather nearly sailed on the Titanic, having been involved in the building of the great ship - but he didn't, possibly because he got married a few months earlier. The 1911 Census of Ireland shows him as a plumber at the shipyard in Belfast, and so Alexandra has been able to enter him on her My Ancestors page. There seem to have been quite a lot of English workers at the Harland & Wolff yard in 1911 - so if you're missing an ancestor in 1911 you might want to take a look at the Irish census (it's free online).
Harder to untangle is this story from Sue:
"My Mum who is coming up to 83 remembers a very handsome young Canadian Airman arriving at her Birmingham home during the war.† Her Mum explained that he was a relation from the Field side of the family and that this branch had emigrated to North America years before.†
"The story goes that they had tickets to sail on the Titanic but unfortunately they missed the train from Birmingham to Southampton and so missed the ship! Since Mum has lost contact with this section of the family I can never verify the story."
Family stories often get distorted in the retelling, and there's a tendency to remember anything associated - even slightly - with some form of disaster. For example, I'll never forget the Indian meal I was eating in London on the night that the Post Office Tower was bombed - except that when I checked the date I discovered that the incident occurred at 4.24am, and on a day when I should have been at university in Southampton, 70 miles away. Was it a different bombing incident I remember, or did I imagine the whole thing?
Of course, you may have connections with the Titanic that youíre unaware of. BBC reporter Mark Simpson has been writing about the Titanic for 20 years, but it was only recently that he discovered that his great-grandfatherís cousin, Dr John Simpson, had been Assistant Surgeon on the liner and lost his life despite helping many others to safety. Click here to read the full story on the BBC website.
No doubt there will be many more Titanic stories in the media as the centenary of the sinking approaches, but youíve probably had enough of them for now. However, I must mention the small village of Addergoole in rural Ireland that lost 11 people in the disaster - only 3 survived out of 14 villagers who travelled on the ship. You'll find the story of the 'Addergoole Fourteen' here.
In my last column I recommended the free Which? Switch website for anyone in the UK who wants to cut their gas and electricity bills - and the next day I got an email from Carla, who has saved herself over £300 a year. For a pensioner that's a lot of money - this year the state pension will be rising by the biggest cash amount ever, yet it's less than the £6 a week that Carla will be saving!
Carla didn't even have to switch supplier, because she discovered using Which? Switch that her present supplier had a tariff that was much cheaper than the one she was on - one phone call and it was all sorted. She kindly recycled some of her savings by renewing her LostCousins subscription - thanks, Carla!
A few months ago I recommended the magazine Computer Shopper and suggested that members take advantage of their 3 issues for £1 offer. At the time you may have wondered how relevant such a magazine is to genealogy (even though we all use computers), but if so youíll be interested to know that the latest (May 2012!) issue has a 15 page article entitled 'Digitise Your Life' which explains how you can digitise almost everything: from documents to photos, negatives, or slides to LPs, audio cassettes, and video tapes. Let's face it, in a few years time you may not have a working VCR or cassette player - whilst colour photos especially are prone to deteriorate over time (not that the colour was always very realistic in the first place - there was always a big difference between Kodak and Ilford film, and even though I was born in Ilford I used to prefer Kodak).
I find the reviews in the magazine invaluable because they don't simply cover computers and add-ons but also cameras, camcorders, tablets - in fact, anything you can hook up to a computer. The trial subscription offer is still running - to take advantage of it click here and enter N10042AFFCS in the promotional code box.
Last year I arranged a special offer for LostCousins members to join the Society of Genealogists. If you took up that offer make sure you join the SOG-UK mailing list, because hardly a day goes by when I don't learn something new from the discussions.
This where any last minute amendments will be recorded or highlighted.
Please keep sending in your news and tips - many of the articles in this newsletter result from suggestions from readers like you!
© Copyright 2012 Peter Calver and the contributors named
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